Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper), MEPs have sought to ensure that “truly independent and autonomous” equality watchdogs in Europe, free from any political and financial interference, will be created.
This comes after the committees on employment women’s rights and gender equality on Tuesday agreed on the EU Parliament’s mandate for negotiations regarding the EU legislation on equality bodies with EU member states.
The Parliament will confirm this mandate at the plenary session later this month. The negotiations are likely to start soon afterward, at the end of November.
The move was hailed as “a significant step” towards a new EU law. MEPs are now calling for a “swift” negotiating process and the finalization of this new law, which they say is long overdue.
Reaction came from Marc Angel, European Parliament’s rapporteur on the EU legislation on equality bodies in the employment committee.
He said: “We have secured a strong mandate for negotiations with EU capitals.
“Our aim is to ensure complete independence and autonomy of equality bodies from any external or internal influence.”
The MEP added, “In practice, this means that they cannot be set up within a ministry, a government body, or any other body taking instructions from a government. This also means that all equality bodies should get an adequate budget and financial autonomy. However, we expect a fight with the member states.
“Furthermore, we have strengthened the role of social partners, especially trade unions. We secured the respect of the autonomy, competencies, and prerogatives of social partners, as well as labor inspectorates and other enforcement bodies.
“We have managed to secure a number of other improvements as well. For example, equality bodies will have the right to act in court.
“In addition to their rights to act as a party in proceedings, they should also be able to initiate court proceedings in their own name when there is no individual complainant pursuing the case themselves or to act in court proceedings when collective redress is used. Moreover, access to equality bodies will no longer be limited to persons with a legal status of a victim but to all persons that have experienced discrimination.”
Further comment came from Carina Ohlsson, S&D negotiator on the EU legislation on equality bodies in the women’s rights and gender equality committee.
She added: “This is a big step for women’s rights and gender equality.
“Gender mainstreaming, as a tool to reach equality between men and women in all their diversity, will now be a reality.
“Member states will have to effectively implement this approach in their national policies. Equality bodies will be responsible for collecting and making accessible gender-disaggregated data and statistics,” said the deputy.